John F. Kennedy, Barack Obama, and the Politics of Ethnic Incorporation and Avoidance: Mysticism and Myth in the Hekhalot and Merkavah Literature
Political analysts and journalists often draw analogies between John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic Irish president, and Barack Obama, the first African American president. Their election to the nation’s highest office was historic, but for reasons not fully appreciated. In John F. Kennedy, Barack Obama, and the Politics of Ethnic Incorporation and Avoidance, Robert C. Smith provides a fascinating comparison of the challenges both men faced in their bid for the presidency, while at the same time providing comparative histories of the Catholic Irish and African American struggles to overcome racial and religious subordination in America. Kennedy’s Catholicism was an explicit issue in the 1960 election, and once elected he was extremely careful to avoid appearing either “too Irish” or “too Catholic.” While Obama’s race was not an explicit issue in the 2008 election, he was just as careful to avoid appearing “too black.” Paradoxically religion—thanks to rumors and lies about whether Obama was a Muslim—became a substitute for race, allowing Republican strategists to “otherize” Obama by raising the issue of religion in the context of national security and terrorism.
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African American Al Smith Andrew Greeley Anglo-Saxon anti-Catholic Barack Obama became bill Bill Clinton black community Black Politics black power black vote Boston campaign candidate Catholic Irish Catholic President Catholicism Chicago church city’s civil rights Clinton Congress congressional consciousness conservative cultural incorporation Daley defeat deﬁned Democratic Party ebony saint economic election electorate ethnic avoidance ethnic group father ﬁrst ﬁrst Catholic Greeley Iackson Iames Ibid identiﬁed Iesse Iackson Iewish immigrants inﬂuence Iohn Kennedy Iohnson Ireland Irish American Irish Catholics Irish ethnicity issue Kennedy and Obama Kennedy’s lace-curtain leaders legislation liberal mainstream majority mayor Nixon nomination numbers O’Neill ofﬁce oppression percent Plouffe political incorporation politics of ethnic polls presidential primaries Protestant race racial racism reﬂected religion religious Republican Robert schools Senate signiﬁcant Smith social Sorensen southern speech stereotypes Super Tuesday United University Press voters W. E. B. Du Bois White House white supremacy winning writes